I’m a university student, and I support the return of Grade 13. Here’s why

Posted on May 21, 2022 in Education Debates

Source: — Authors:

TheStar.com – Opinion/Contributors
May 20, 2022.   By Taryn Herlich, Contributor

Many Grade 12 students feel lost, with no clue of what they want to pursue as a career or in university. An extra year will help them prepare.

If someone were to ask me four years ago if I would be interested in taking Grade 13, I would have laughed in their face. I wanted out the moment I crossed the Grade 12 finish line.

If you were to ask me today, however, my answer would differ. As an older sister, I encourage my siblings to take an extra year to pause and think about what they want.

Today, the proposal by Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca to temporarily give Ontario’s students the option to complete Grade 13 has my full support.

Why? A great portion of Grade 12 students feel completely lost, with no clue of what they want in a career, let alone university major. I see absolutely no shame in taking a year to reflect and review your options and interests. University is neither cheap nor easy — why rush into it if you’re not emotionally or financially ready?

Many of us jump headfirst into post-secondary education with little clue of what we truly want. We lack an awareness that we gain later on. The transition can be a significant adjustment, especially for those living away from home. It is a change that not everyone is ready for, and many face extensive mental health challenges because of this. They suddenly experience a workload they have never encountered, and a new sense of loneliness, pressure and confusion. While many thrive in university, a substantial number feel as though they are drowning. I believe Grade 13 could help prevent such issues.

A survey conducted by Monster Canada found just over half of working Canadians regret their choice of degree or diploma. This makes sense, considering the young age we’re asked to make such an important decision.

University applications seem to spring upon you in Grade 12, and many feel rushed to make a choice that feels so important and permanent. Grade 13 should have an emphasis on taking time to understand what you need.

If you switch majors, you’ll be set back at least one year. If you conclude that you hate what you’re studying by the end of year two, your four-year degree can take six to complete. I’m not saying there’s a problem with that, but think extra time in high school to reflect on what you want would make a huge difference.

What I’d like to know is what makes this new Grade 13 distinct from essentially repeating Grade 12 with a “victory lap.” What will entice students to opt for the extra year? Will courses offered such as financial literacy be hands-on? It’s said there will be more mental health support, but what will that look like? Will there be additional mentorship for post-secondary, or co-op programs that give students a glimpse into their possible future?

All this is necessary for making sure that optional extra year is valued, enjoyable and filled with the inner growth that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Taryn Herlich is a Toronto-based writer, Toronto Metropolitan University student and mental health advocate.


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